How to Take Your Dog's Temperature at Home and Ease Fevers
Do you know how to take your dog's temperature? A dog's temperature is always part of a thorough physical exam, as it plays an important role in diagnosing diseases and assessing various conditions. But you do not need to take your dog to your veterinarian just to get a temperature reading; with the right tools and some collaboration from your dog, you can easily assess your dog's internal temperature from the comfort of your home! But first, let's learn more about fevers in dogs and debunk some common myths.
Just as is in humans, fevers in dogs develop for a particular reason: to fight an infection. When a fever arises, it occurs as an act of defense, because the body has generally recognized some sort of foreign body such as bacteria and viruses. The elevated temperature of a fever causes these viruses and bacteria to perish because they do not do well in hot environments.
Symptoms of Fever in Dogs
Dogs affected by fever often tend to develop the following symptoms:
- Loss of Appetite
- Tendency to Sleep More
Note: Dogs may also develop many other diverse symptoms depending on the underlying cause of the fever.
Noses and Ears Are Not Good Indicators of Fever in Dogs
It is important for dog owners to realize that using the dog's nose as an indicator of health is not a good way to diagnose a fever!
A dog's nose is basically susceptible to its surrounding quite in the same manner as our lips are. In other words, a dog's nose has a tendency to dry out in dry environments and become wet instead when the surrounding areas have high humidity levels. Therefore, there can be very sick dogs with wet noses and there can be very healthy dogs with extremely dry noses. For more on this read "The truth about dry noses in dogs."
Touching a dog's ears may also be an unreliable method to diagnose a fever. This is mainly because a dog's temperature is normally several degrees higher than a human's, causing them to feel hot; however, in some instances, hot ears in dogs may indicate the presence of an ear infection.
Therefore, the ultimate method to accurately diagnose a fever remains taking the dog's rectal temperature. So now let's see how we can take your dog's temperature at home.
Dogs will love this!
How to Take Your Dog's Temperature
So now that you know you cannot rely on your dog's nose nor his ears, to tell if he is running a fever the next step is gathering all the equipment you need. (There's a reason why vets use thermometers!) To get started, equip yourself with the following tools.
- A digital or mercury thermometer
- Petroleum jelly or K-Y jelly
- A friend to help assist
- Your dog's favorite treats
You want to choose an area of your home that is quiet and with little distractions. If you have a small dog placing him on a table may help. Have your friend hold the dog still, and carefully lubricate the thermometer with either the petroleum jelly or K.Y. jelly. Depending on the type of thermometer you are using, the method for getting a temperature reading may be slightly different.
The Mercury Thermometer method
If you are using an old fashioned mercury thermometer remember to flick it so the mercury goes below 94 degrees. Lift the dog's tail and gently insert the thermometer only for about one to three inches. Hold in place for about 3 minutes. Don't forget to praise and treat your dog for being collaborative.
The Digital Thermometer Method
If you are using a digital thermometer, insert it in the same way as the mercury thermometer (no need to flick it) and wait until it beeps. Don't forget to offer a treat once you have taken the reading.
The temperature reading becomes easier and easier with practice. Owners that particularly dislike taking their dog's temperature rectally, may rejoice in learning that lately some new ear thermometers specifically made for pets are on the market. These thermometers can be costly but they may be worth it especially with dogs that are not particularly collaborative. However, they're not the easiest to use.
Of course, a temperature reading is useless if dog owners do not know what to look for. Normal rectal temperatures in dogs range between 100˚F–102.5˚F. Anything above or below this range requires veterinarian attention!
How to Reduce Fever in Dogs
My dog has a fever . . . now what? Owners can help dogs with mild fevers at home by providing plenty of fluids.
- Ice chips are a good resource for dogs that have lost their appetite or are nauseous.
- Cold compresses applied to the stomach area, armpit area, and paw pads may be effective in lowering the body's internal temperature.
- A cool bath of 5–10 minutes may give relief, but the dog must be dried carefully afterward.
Always see your vet if your dog has a mild fever, as you need to treat the underlying cause!
When the dog's temperature reading is over 104˚F and the dog is exhibiting other symptoms as well, it is highly recommended to have a veterinarian immediately assess the situation and run diagnostic tests.
As seen, taking a dog's temperature is not really a difficult task. However, the importance of having a veterinarian assess the situation can never be emphasized enough. Dogs do not normally have fevers; therefore, when this happens, something is not working properly and may need attention.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
What is a high fever for a dog?
The normal body temperature of dogs ranges between 101 and 102.5 degrees. A fever is generally anything more than 103 degrees.Helpful 6
© 2009 Adrienne Farricelli